09/23/2013 by Matthew Grant Anson
Benchmarks set for rollout of new school funding formula
(photo credit: Univers beeldbank)
Our latest coverage of the Local Control Funding Formula’s architecture provided some background on how the new school funding system would be rolled out. Today, we have some more concrete details as the plan continues to coalesce. And, as with most things involving the tortoise-like progression of government policy, it’s a tale of regulations and rules.
“What’s before us and the state now in terms of what’s being decided is the state board needs to adopt regulations related to the fiscal rules,” said Debra Brown, associate director of education policy for the non-profit Children Now. “They need to do that by this coming January. Another issue is the format for the LCAP, they need to adopt their plans by this coming June.”
LCFF is already a lot to wrap your head around, so the introduction of this new acronym LCAP – aka Local Control Accountability Plan – may seem a little intimidating. But don’t fret, it’s really quite simple. The LCAP is the three-year plan designed by school districts to identify goals and measure progress of student subgroups. It’s a key part of LCFF in that the success or failure of the formula hinges on the LCAP.
In fact, the entire concept of LCFF is based in custom-tailored responses to the unique challenges school districts face, says Children Now’s senior director of education policy Samantha Tran.
“There are two overarching themes that are being woven today, and that’s the flexibility in the use of resources and a demonstrated investment in equity,” she said. “It’s grounded in decades of research and on the ground experience. Both of these goals were critical to getting LCFF passed, and they have merit.”
It’s the flexibility that Tran and other LCFF proponents point to as a catalyst to student progress across the state.
“In order to be really responsible to the individual kid, school, and community, having the ability to modify programs based on changing needs and knowledge is essential,” Tran said. “In addition, as we’re in the process of going through implementation, we realize there are fiscal constraints in districts that are very different across the state – it’s important to note that districts vary in places,” she said.
One of the areas they may vary is in regard to the needs of students, which calls back to the investment in equity. “Research, local practice, and common sense demonstrate that students starting with less need more,” Tran said. “There’s compelling research that high need students do not always receive services they need to be successful.”
LCFF is committed to both establishing flexibility and equity; what needs to be hammered out are the remaining fiscal regulations and districts’ LCAPs. But despite what still needs to happen, Tran stresses what has already occurred on the state’s way to implementing this new funding formula for California’s schools. “We’re seeing some really good work already happening,” she said. “One of the things districts are doing early in the process is having community-wide forums, just to explain what’s in the law. Those are good conversations to have because it helps build transparency and helps build trust.”
As the clock ticks down to January and beyond, we’ll continue to keep tabs on how the LCFF is rolled out. It’s a top-down restructuring of how our kids’ schools are funded, as it replaces something obsolete and anachronistic with something streamlined that offers a shot at true forward progress for California. The future of California is in the hands of today’s students; the fate of our state depends on how well we prepare these students for their post-grad lives.